June 24, 2024

Sony Plans to Emulate Apple, in a Non-Apple-Like Way

Sony says it wants to create a system that does for movies what Apple’s iTunes does for music, according to a CNET story by Stefanie Olsen.

Unfortunately Sony doesn’t seem to understand what Apple did:

“We want to set business models, pricing models, distribution models like (Apple Computer CEO Steve) Jobs did for music, but for the film industry,” Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures, said at the Digital Hollywood conference here.

What Apple actually did was to think about what customers wanted and then strive to provide it. Customers wanted one-click buying, ownership of songs rather than rental, tranferrability to different devices, and an attractive price. Apple couldn’t provide customers’ dream service, but they got pretty close. Apple realized that it didn’t have carte blanche to choose the business model, pricing model, and distribution model that Apple would like best. This is what is supposed to happen in competitive markets – market pressure forcing companies to give customers what they want.

Compare to Sony’s own digital music strategy, which looked like an attempt to construct Sony’s dream world. Customers didn’t want to live in that world, so they didn’t buy into Sony’s system. If Sony wants a different result this time, it’ll have to change its strategy.


  1. I often see complaints about iTunes that say a “purchase” of music from Apple is a “rental,” in that you can’t sell or give the music to others. That’s only true of music that you buy from Apple, and you pay the rent fee only one time. If you rip, copy, or buy mp3 tracks from other sources, iTunes treats those as your property. That seems like fair dealing to me. As for DVDs, I think the Neflix model is about right: I rent 12 movies a month for $1.75 each. If I want the movie in more permanent form, I’ll pay 12-15 dollars for the physical disc.

  2. Exactly. The whole idea of a Sony Movie iTunes is so stupid that it almost sounds like an April Fool’s. But we all know how little common business sense the media industries have, so this one’s probably for real.

    I would like a movie download service, but without strings attached, and as you said, the market will be small, because downloading a whole movie takes too long to be convenient.

    Anyway, if it fails, Sony has another good excuse: that “they tried to enstablish a legal alternative to file-sharing” and maybe even “that the service failed because everyone loads movies with Kazaa.” They just don’t get it.

  3. “And, BTW I can rent DVDs in one of a huge number of video rental stores, which isn’t possible for music.”

    And what with all the online DVD rental places popping up now, we’re sort of half way there, and it’s the useful half that’s been done. The trouble with taking it ALL online is that you’re going to have to wait hours for the huge video files to download (a reasonable quality DivX of a 90 minute movie is, at a minimum, about 1.5GB, which given the fairly mediocre bandwidth available to most people probably equates to 5 or 6 hours), and then you have to watch it on your PC, so their target market is probably tiny, if it exists at all. To be honest, I’d rather wait two days and get an actual DVD in the post that I can watch in comfort…

  4. Hmmm. I don’t like iTunes (because of all the restrictions compared to buying real CDs), but at least it gives you a choice among music from different labels (even though lots of “my” music still isn’t on iTunes).

    A Sony movie store would only give you Sony stuff (I guess), would probably restrict you to some Atrac-for-movies-with-DRM format that only a Windows-PC would play, and only after installing tons of cripple- and spyware.

    And, BTW I can rent DVDs in one of a huge number of video rental stores, which isn’t possible for music. So even if Sony doesn’t screw this one up, the chances for success aren’t too great. Maybe they need to introduce the iWatch Portable Movie Player along with it (and print an Apple on top) 😉